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About Judy Fitzgerald


Judy's journey began on December 29, 2008 with a phone call from the hospital advising her of an "area of concern" on her mammogram.  In the months that followed, she would undergo two biopsies, a double mastectomy and "immediate" reconstruction.  She was naive but soon found out that "immediate" meant the process would begin immediately but would actually consume a year of her life.​​

During that long year, Judy kept a journal and dedicated herself to researching diet and lifestyle changes that other survivors had adopted to prevent recurrence. This journal would later become her book, A Teacher's Journey,  What Breast Cancer Taught Me.​​

Her research on prevention led her to an amazing research effort at the Lerner Research Institute of the Cleveland Clinic under the direction of Dr. Vincent Tuohy.  Dr. Tuohy had developed a preventive vaccine that had proven 100% effective in preventing breast cancer in mice. So why wasn't this available to women? She would soon discover that a lack of funding was the sole obstacle to clinical trials.  At that time, research funds were readily available for treatment, but not for prevention.​​

Finding funding for this vaccine became Judy's mission.  She would fundraise, write letters, become extremely active on social media,  and even lobby Congress.  Finally after more than twenty years of research, in September of 2017 Dr. Tuohy was awarded a six million dollar grant by the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Grant Program to conduct phase one clinical trials for his vaccine.  The trial is in progress and is now being tested on the most lethal form of breast cancer, triple negative.  Judy now serves as a consumer advocate on the vaccine trial. Following the lobby efforts that Judy chaired,  Dr. Tuohy also recently received a grant for further development of his ovarian cancer vaccine through the newly funded,  NCI's Prevent Program.​​

Judy is also a consumer advocate for the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Grant Program, NIH/NCI and a Komen Advocate in Science.  She is also a patient advocate for NCI/NIH and Friends of Cancer Research. 


She graduated from Providence College with a BS in Chemistry, and served as a science, math and computer teacher both in England and Rhode Island until her retirement in 2008. In 2015, she was selected by Ford Motor Company as a “Warrior in Pink”.  Judy is also a dedicated wife, mother and grandmother and her grandchildren are her greatest joy.  Her dream is to imagine a world without breast and ovarian cancers.  She believes this is the greatest legacy she can leave her children.

About the Late Vincent K. Tuohy, PhD

The Mort and Iris November Distinguished Chair in Innovative Breast Cancer Research 
Learner Research Institute
9500 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, Ohio 44195


"My current research activities focus on the preclinical and clinical development of vaccines designed to prevent adult-onset cancers such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and endometrial cancer. My prototypic strategy for developing cancer prevention vaccines is based on the “retired self-protein hypothesis" whereby tissue-specific proteins that are no longer expressed in normal tissues as a result of the natural aging process may induce safe and effective prophylactic vaccination against age-related emerging tumors that express the targeted “retired” protein.

We are currently involved in a phase I clinical trial sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense to determine the safety and dosage of a vaccine ultimately designed to prevent triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), the most aggressive and lethal form of breast cancer and the version of breast cancer that predominates in women at high genetic risk due to carrying mutations in their BRCA1 genes. We also have a collaborative agreement with the National Cancer Institute’s PREVENT Program to enter clinical trials ultimately designed to determine the ability of our ovarian cancer vaccine to prevent ovarian cancer and endometrial cancer. Supporting all of this publicly supported work are licensing agreements with Anixa Biosciences, Inc. to facilitate the commercialization of these two vaccines.

Finally, my program has also developed a humanized monoclonal antibody that inhibits the growth of human ovarian tumors in patient-derived xenografts and may be useful in treating human ovarian and endometrial cancers either directly or as an immune reagent for delivering a toxic payload to tumor cells."

Dr. Tuohy's Research:

  • Primary Immunoprevention of Adult-Onset Cancers

  • Breast Cancer

  • Ovarian Cancer

  • Endometrial Cancer

  • Cancer Immunotherapy

Tragically Dr. Tuohy passed away last year on January 18, 2023.  He left an amazing team in place, and we are dedicated to preserve his legacy and bring his extraordinary discoveries to the clinic and patients.


Judy Fitzgerald

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